WINNIPEG -- The Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) is using its entire accumulated surplus to balance its 2021-2022 budget.

“It’s very important that we achieve a balanced budget always,” said Christian Michalik, superintendent of the school division.

“What has to be understood by the public is we don’t believe this year is a time to contemplate reductions.”

According to the school division, if it doesn’t deplete the surplus to balance the budget, it’s facing staff layoffs, increases to class sizes, reductions to the school budgets, and stopping school renovations that aren’t funded by the province.

“To achieve a balanced budget what we’re going to have to do is exhaust our surplus,” the superintendent said.

“Of course that has implications because, essentially we’ll have no maneuvering room come (2022) and beyond.”

Michalik said this year’s budget process was quite different from past years, because the school division had to consider pandemic costs and an $8 million arbitration award, on top of the funding for staffing, technology, infrastructure and bus runs.

He said the division has reached out to the provincial government for help.

“The pandemic right now is estimated to cost us $13 million,” Michalik said.

“So these are $13 million we hadn’t budgeted for last March.”

The LRSD is hoping to secure additional government funding to offset the projected $2.4 million in unfunded pandemic expenditures. Otherwise, it projects its accumulated surplus will be depleted by June 30, 2021.

Michalik noted that in a typical year the division tries to accumulate a surplus around three to four per cent of annual operating expenditures.

The school division presented its draft budget to the public last week. The school board will now deliberate and put its finishing touches on the budget, which will be adopted next week.